Taking Our Place: Elaine Reuben25 October 2013
By Elaine Reuben, October 2013
Bat Mitzvah, present, absent or partial, seems to be significant in many of the stories here. Unusual as it still was then.
I did have a Bat Mitzvah, "just like the Bar Mitzvah boys," in 1954: my then rabbi, in a Conservative congregation in the Midwest, thought himself a Reconstructionist, the movement in which this modern recognition of daughters began.
The congregation didn't mind (as far as I know), that I read and lead and spoke on the bima, wearing a tallis -- but they didn't let it affect them positively either. No adult women there wore a tallis, none were offered (perhaps few sought) any ritual roles except lighting candles and opening the ark: there was no egalitarian community to enter and participate in after my Bat Mitzvah. And would not be for many years.
In those years, there was more than slowly and not-so-simply bringing girls and women to the bima. There were Rosh Hodesh groups and developments of non-sexist language and liturgy, art and literature reflecting women's voices, scholarly work on both the past and present of Jewish women and efforts toward their future with the ordination of women and the establishment of women's study and t'fillah groups.
Many of us had grown up proud to be Jewish women, but -- Bible stories aside -- more of that pride came from the work of women's organizations like Hadassah and National Council of Jewish Women (or tales of women in the IDF and on the kibbutzim and in social justice movements around the world) than from the spiritual center of our religion.
Finally, however, the pieces of our stories and the possibilities of our Jewish lives have come together here: we wish that for our sisters and brothers in Israel.
Judaism belongs to every Jew25 October 2013
By Hallel Abramowitz-Silverman, October 2013
My connection to God was strengthened at a Women of the Wall support service in NY last March. There were over 300 people. Some didn't even personally understand women who chose to wear tallitot, but believed in religious freedom for all - not just those who agreed with them. Seeing all these people who didn't even know us personally, and some who have never been to the Kotel, care so much for this issue was incredible. I had an aliya that day, and when I called out Barchu et Adonai hamvorach, and the congregation responded, Baruch Adonai Hamvorach Leolam va'ed, my heart expanded. It was the most honest and vulnerable prayer of my life.
I am sad that I have not had this amazing kind of connection at the Kotel yet. When I am there my awe of God is clouded by my fear of violence. Israel needs to step up and stop enabling the Ultra-Orthodox. If one is not pushed to give back to its country, work for a living and think about anyone outside of his / her community, then how can we possibly expect s/he magically knows how to compromise? The Ultra-Orthodox are not the core problem of this issue. We are, the government is, and our country that has been enabling this kind of behaviors is. Like anyone who has been enabled, there is Haredi panic and anger, and in their case violence, at the prospect of losing the safety of their bubbled life. But Judaism belongs to every Jew, and every Jew must stand up and engage, despite threats from the entitled few.
In NY on Rosh Hodesh, surrounded by people who whole-heartedly supported what I have been fighting for month after month was an incredible feeling. One that I'm not used to on Rosh Chodesh. There was not one part of me that was scared, not a bone in me that wasn't connected to God. It will be a blessing when I can call out God's blessedness as openly and freely in Jerusalem as I can in New York.
Hallel Abramowitz-Silverman can be followed on twitter @purplelettuce95.
A Long Way To Go24 October 2013
By Ilona Lee AM, October 2013
Thirty years ago when I became president of my WIZO group. there were no female rabbis and no females presidents of mainstream Jewish organisations in Sydney.
There have been marked changes since in both the general and the Jewish community. A woman was elected for the first time as Prime Minister of Australia and, in Sydney, we now have three female rabbis attached to reform and Masorti (Conservative) synagogues. Over the years, I have been president of one of our major communal organisations and have been on the executive of four others including the roof body of the New South Wales community and the major fund-raising organisation.
Surveying the Australian scene today, however, we still have a long way to go. Our first female Prime Minister was poorly treated and driven from office (many would say, because she is a woman) and, in the Sydney Jewish community, there is currently only one female president of any major communal organisation, including our day schools and synagogues.
Why is this so? It is true that the way is open to women. But, most Jewish women in Sydney still shoulder the major roles of house management and child care whilst also holding down responsible jobs. Being a communal leader here is usually at least a half-time occupation, often more, but with no remuneration. Thus it is almost impossible for a woman to put her hand up for a leadership position until her children have grown and professional responsibilities decrease or she is wealthy enough to have paid assistance. So, until we make further strides forward in the general community and the tasks of managing home and family are more equally shared, women will continue to be underrepresented in Jewish communal leadership roles.
Ilona Lee AM
NIF Au Board Member
The fight for equality is far from over24 October 2013
By Susi Brieger OAM, October 2013
Australian Jewish women face challenges common to all women in society. Their responsibility as primary caregivers for children, the elderly and the sick hampers their development as spiritual, political and cultural leaders. Nevertheless since 1988 increasing gains have been made in the fight for gender equality.
In my own field of education, the equal contribution of women has been recognised in Jewish Day Schools with the appointment of female principals. More women could rise to positions of educational leadership if employers and communal organisations recognised the need for affordable care for children and if cultural changes within the communities occurred so that care work could be shared between men and women. In the area of decision making not a lot of progress has been made since 1988.
While more women lead committees within communal organisations, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the elected representative of the Jewish community has not had a female president; the Jewish Communal Appeal which is concerned with planning and fund raising is predominantly male orientated; currently, only one woman heads a communal organisation in NSW. Without equal representation in communal power structures, the fight for equality is far from over. To facilitate the rise of women as leaders a communal register could be established along the lines of “appoint women” an initiative of the Australian government designed to give women opportunities to be considered for appointment to a variety of decision making bodies.
I dream…24 October 2013
By Barbara Ford, October 2013
Born in Sydney Australia I have always been a member of a Liberal/Progressive congregation. There have been many changes since I did my Bat Mitzvah with a group of 10-12 girls all dressed in white. Rabbis were male only wearing ceremonial gowns.
I have been privileged to be on a Synagogue Board and be Vice President for a short time at my congregation. Now as President of ARZA I am able to tell the story of the WOW. I have been at the Kotel with the WOW when a lady was detained for wearing a ‘mans’ tallis. Many find it hard to believe the struggles that have taken place over the past 25 years. We salute WOW on the amazing milestones that they have achieved.
I dream that Israel will fulfil its promise as stated in the Declaration of Independence and that this will ensure that Israel becomes a truly democratic and inclusive society.
I dream that Israel will respect the way I want to be Jewish and will allow me to be legally married by a Pluralistic Rabbi; that either all or no Rabbis will be paid by the state; and that land will be given to the Reform movement to build its synagogues as it does to other groups.
I dream that I can go to the Kotel with my family and be able to wear a tallit, if I choose, and to pray as a family at the Wall together.
I dream that Israel will acknowledge and embrace the fact that there is more than one way to be Jewish.